The traditionally male dominated motor industry must adapt to embrace the female point of view - in all aspects of the business. This claim, made by Volvo from research figures issued today, comes as the world's first concept car developed by an all-female Volvo team goes on display at London's Business Design Centre in Islington.
The Office for National Statistics data shows that women make up 45% of the total workforce in the UK. However, within the automotive industry this figure tends to be lower, with retail and distribution disciplines around 30% and within the manufacturing sector it is even lower - at just 8%. By contrast, at Volvo's Torslanda manufacturing site in Sweden, female staff account for 27% of the workforce and 20% of all Volvo employees are female.
Also, 20% of the professional test drivers at Volvo's test circuit in Sweden are female, often undertaking this role part-time alongside other jobs, as varied as nurse, care worker, chef and logistics co-ordinator.
Within Volvo worldwide, the number of female managers currently represents 15% of the workforce, but Volvo is committed to increase this figure to 20% by 20051.
"From as early as the 1980s Volvo has had groups of female staff testing and assessing new models from a woman's point of view, but now we are ensuring we have a strong female element in our management team as well," said Hans-Olov Olsson President and CEO of Volvo Cars. "But we also admit that there is still some way to go at the very top of the organisation, with currently only one woman on Volvo Car Corporation's ten-strong senior management team."
One of the key reasons that Volvo wishes to improve the number of women in its business is to help understand and attract more female buyers.
Currently, just 14% of Volvo customers in Europe are female, yet research shows that women influence 80% of all car purchases. Similarly, in the premium car segment Volvo operates in, female customers have increased by 50% in the last five years. Research shows that these women are the most demanding car buyers, and they tend to be younger than their male premium car buying counterparts.
Volvo's latest demonstration of its commitment is the YCC concept car (Your Concept Car), which makes its UK debut in London at the Business Design Centre today. The YCC project is unique - it’s the first car in the world to be developed by an all-female Volvo management team.
CBI Director-General Digby Jones believes that British business must adopt the same attitude; "The vision demonstrated by the all female Volvo team in the creation of the YCC concept car is perfectly timed. We need to encourage more people to become the talented engineers and designers of the future and young women everywhere should sit up and take notice. This concept vehicle is a shining example of just how much can be achieved within a progressive organisation. I feel sure they are on to a winner".
The Volvo YCC was inspired by research that showed if you meet the expectations of a woman, you'll exceed the expectations of a man. Hans-Olov Olsson explains: "All this forms a great business opportunity for us. We can target the fast-growing number of women buyers in the premium segment…without losing the men. I am convinced that male buyers will love this concept car."
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